Achieving environmentally-safe ship-breaking activities pledged

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ISLAMABAD, June 19 (APP): Stakeholders have pledged to
join the government’s efforts for achieving sustainability of ship-
breaking activities while ensuring conservation and protection of
coastal and marine ecosystems in the coastal areas of the country.

Coastal and marine ecosystems were exposed to an escalating contamination of seawater and marine ecology because of
the ship-dismantling activities, which are carried out not in
conformity with environmental safeguards, they emphasised at a
national consultative policy workshop on Sustainable and
Environmentally-Sound Management of Waste from Ship-Recycling In
Pakistan here on Sunday.

Role of investors in ship-breaking activities and owners of
the Gadani ship-breaking yards was vital to the conservation
efforts, Muhammad Ashraf, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of
Science and Technology, highlighted in his keynote speech to the
participants of the consultative workshop.

He said, “Thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste is piling up
at Gadani shipbreaking yard in Balochistan’s coastal area, which
badly harms the marine ecosystem, overall environment, the life of
workers at the shipbreaking yards and those live around the area,
environmentalist,”

“There is a pressing need to put in place facilities in consultation with relevant stakeholders to handle hazardous waste in scientific and environmentally-safe manner to save shipbreaking activities from any punitive action/ban under the European Union’s certain regulations,” Ms. Susan Wingfield told the workshop participants, who is programme officer at the Geneva-based Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

She pointed out that the main reason behind the growth of
shipbreaking industry in Pakistan was comparatively low cost of
labour, weak implementation of laws pertaining to environmental
protection, workers’ rights.

“Yet, we would help Pakistan in all possible ways to save its
marine and coastal ecologies by making the ship-breaking activities
environmentally-safe.

Joint Secretary (International Cooperation), the Climate
Change Ministry, Iftikhar-ul-Hasan Shah Gilani said the basic
responsibility for clean and safe ship recycling lies with the ship
owners, who have commercially benefitted from vessels.

“Therefore, they must show their will and play their part in
achieving the goal of ship-dismantling activities environmentally-
safe,” he stressed.

Gilani highlighted that the present government was committed to
making shipbreaking industry a `green’ and environmentally-safe by
following the mechanized system of dismantling in compliance with
available legislative frameworks i.e. (Hong Kong and Basel conventions) without harming employment of workers.

“To achieve this, the Climate Change Ministry is in touch with
all relevant government and non-governmental stakeholders for their
pragmatic views and suggestions,” he said.

Dr. Mahmood Khawaja, Senior Adviser on Chemicals and
Sustainable Industrial Development at Sustainable Development
Policy Institute, emphasised need for a viable environment-friendly
ship-recycling strategy.

Efforts must be made to address the policy and governance
related matters of environmental and social aspects of the
ship-breaking industry, which require serious considerations at
this critical point of time.

Expert on environmentally safe shipbreaking business model
development at Sofies Consultancy firm, Mr. David Martin, shed light
on the Hazardous Waste Assessment Report for Gadani/Hub industrial
region and environmentally sound management of waste from ship
recycling.

He said that having environmentally sound management of waste
from ship recycling system at the Gadani shipbreaking yards in
Balochistan’s coastal area will help reduce environmental
degradation and risks to marine ecosystem and lower health costs of
the workers.

Saleem Uz Zaman, senior national consultant for the environmentally-safe shipbreaking activities in Pakistan Programme, highlighted the challenge of tackling hazardous waste generated as a resulted of dismantling of old ships at the Gadani shipbreaking yard.

He told the workshop participants, Pakistan still does not have any defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to deal with
hazardous wastes and other materials retrieved from ships. To make
matters worse, hazardous waste from ship-breaking activity has been
accumulating over the years in Gadhani.

However, there was serious need for identifying proper landfill sites for burying the poisonous hazardous waste, the consultant Saleem uz Zaman said.

Prof. Shyam Asolekar at the Centre for environmental science
and engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, talked
about common hazardous waste, its treatment, storage and safe
disposal issues in South Asia region.

He said that installation of efficient waste treatment plants
and effective environmental monitoring are of unprecedented
significance to reduce risk from shipbreaking activities to the
local marine and coastal ecosystems.

Professor Muhammad Irfan Khan of the Islamic University,
Islamabad, shed light EU ship-recycling regulations enforced in
2013.

He said that these regulations ask European Commission to
establish a global list of ship recycling facilities that comply
with the requirements of the Regulations.

He said, “To avoid punitive santions on dismantling of
European ships in Pakistan, Pakistani yards either need to move
their operations off the beach or upgrade both occupational health
& safety standards as well as downstream waste management to meet
these standards to avail the opportunities to dismantle vessels
flying the flag of an EU Member State in the future.”

Earlier, Depuyty Director (Chemical), Ministry of Climate
Change, Dr. Zaigam Abbas, talked about scope and socio-economic and
environmental benefits of the environmentally-sound shipbreaking
activities in the country.

He said it is matter of concern that at present there was
neigther any collection system for hazardous waste and nor
provision of health and safety standards for the worker during ship
dismantling.

“Given the seriousness of the environmentally-unsound ship-
dismantling activities, the ministry has launded efforts to develop
the inventories of hazardous waste and other waste at ship breaking
industry at Gaddani, Balochistan. Efforts are also being taken to
develop downstream hazardous waste management capacity in Pakistan,” he told the participants.